Nikkei Interview: The Cloud and Copyright — Views from Two Experts

When considering the appropriate balance between the storage and use of content online through various cloud services and the protection of copyright, where should the line be drawn between what is and what is not covered under copying for personal use?

Two copyright specialists were asked their views on this issue.

Miki Yanagihara, Chair of JEITA Copyright Experts Committee

Q) Do you think there is a need for limitations in copyright law in order to accommodate cloud services?

* In the current Japanese legal framework, it is difficult to create flexible guidelines that cover the general usage of cloud services. However, if the current laws can be revised, we should be able to accommodate some of these services.

* Services, such as those that analyze business data or seek to identify plagiarism, all “copy” copyrighted material as part of their work process. If formal agreement can be reached for such usage to be covered under legal provisions for information processing, the availability of these type of services can be expanded .

* A law that allows immunity for service providers from copyright infringement, as long as the content in question is removed upon request of creators, might also be implemented to deal with this issue. This procedure is used by the United States.

Q) What other services could become an issue in Japan?

* There is a need for a law that covers cases where it is difficult to gain permission of copyright holders. Moreover, it is important that legal frameworks consider the balance between societal needs and the risk of copyright violation.

* For many cloud services, such as those that allow users to upload and print images on products, it is difficult to confirm whether or not the content actually violates copyright.

* Many useful cloud services will not be able to function, if users are obligated to gain permission for each separate use of content.

Q) How should copyright be limited?

* There is a need for more flexibility and a broader consideration of copyright issues. Instead of being tied down to existing frameworks, contracts between users and cloud service providers should be reconsidered from a wider perspective.

Lawyer, Masayuki Matsuda, Lawyer specializing in Copyright Law

Q) What do you consider to be the ideal state of copyright regulation?

* I think that is where copyright restrictions are considered in the light of evolving business models. For example, in the case of e-Learning, current laws only permit universities to share textbook content online during the time that the course is in session. However, it is obviously more effective to permit universities to send course material in advance to students so they can access it online as they normally would printed materials.

* The Cloud allows university course material to be saved on a server. This theoretically allows it be duplicated and modified as data, so it is important to discuss where the appropriate limitations are in terms of copyright.

Q) How about music storage on cloud services?

* The key point in this discussion is whether saving purchased music on the cloud falls under the exemption for private use. There was significant opposition in Japan when the storage of CD music through an online service was ruled illegal by the courts and not protected under this law.

* Fundamentally, there is a lack of common ground between creators and service providers. Creators of content argue that consumers should pay the appropriate price whenever they wish to replicate their content. On the other hand, service providers argue that there is no harm to creators, if content is replicated solely for the purpose of cloud storage.

* Under “fair use” provisions in the United States, the replication of content is permitted as long as there is no harm to copyright holders. Such reasoning does not currently apply in Japan, since the nation’s copyright law does not include the “risk of damage” as a standard in determining what is legal.

Source: Nikkei Shimbun(Masayuki Matsuda)

Nikkei Shimbun(Miki Yanagihara), Morning Edition (Japanese)